world citizens

We have raised our children to be world citizens. This was important to us and, I believe, one thing we succeeded at. What do I mean by “world citizen”?

To me, a world citizen is a person conscious of the world. Conscious of and knowledgeable of different cultures and beliefs. A person not afraid to investigate, consider other opinions, a person open to learning. A world citizen knows there is one race, the human race, but it manifests itself in a great variety. This is the MOST important lesson to teach your kids: The WORLD is our home, people the world over are inherently the same, want the same things, clean water, land and beauty of the earth, a safe place to live, peace with their neighbors, family, and community. They want to raise their children to be whoever they want to be, and have the opportunities all other children have, to read and write, learn in school, become contributing citizens of the world.

When I was growing up, my dad was a professor of mechanical engineering at a large university, Purdue. Graduate students from different countries came into our home and had dinner with us. I do not remember ever being invited to my major professor’s home for dinner. But my dad was exceptional. We had African students from various countries, those from India, and other places. Sometimes my sister & I were asked to dance for them or talk with them. We also had family music nights. I grew up on Satchmo and Dixieland jazz. My dad played guitar, banjo, flute, and bongo drums. My mom played piano and I was taught that as well.

My husband and I raised our kids on little money. The privileged childhood I enjoyed vanished when my father died at a young age, 3 months before his 51st year. We had 4 children in years of poverty, I would say. But this essay is not about that. All four of our children have traveled internationally overseas, something I never did, and they all did it on a hope & a prayer.

Jasmine, our oldest, went with her sister Leah to China. They joined a program called “the crazy English school”. They had to pay their plane fare but once getting to the school, their plane fare was paid back to them. For 2 weeks, they interacted with Chinese adults learning English, who wanted to sound “American”.

Prior to this, Leah spent a year in Liverpool, England after graduating half a year early from high school. She left before she turned 18. She spent a year doing service for a hostel/type place run as a Baha’i school in Liverpool. We had no money. We came up with the plane fare but England required she show hat she had $1000 and didn’t need to take a job from Britains once she got there. We didn’t have $1000. A co-worker of mine who was Indian said, “OH, I’ll loan you the thousand, once she gets there you give it back to me. Indians do this all the time.” And that’s what we did. She learned many things about English culture, including that they turned on the water heater in the morning for the purpose of a short shower. Then they turned it off. Pharmacies didn’t have the DRUGS we have, shelves and shelves of them, and even aspirin was behind the counter. They sell more herbal stuff. I think at one point I even mailed her some ibuprofen or aspirin.

Our 3rd child, Jamal, oldest son, was a soccer player. He had the opportunity to go to Argentina with a youth exhibition team from our hometown. The whole team had offers to stay with a host family for a year. Our son was the only one who did so. A few of the things he learned was seeing absolute poverty while riding the bus to go to some soccer games. He said we don’t have such poverty here, basically tent cities or shacks for long stretches of miles. Secondly, Argentina was going through a bit of political upheaval and he was downtown during a protest one time. Third, they ate a LOT of meat. His host family had some cattle I believe. Fourth, Argentina is much like a European country. The young adult scene was late night, tight pants, very European.

Our 4th child Levin, 2nd son, went to England with his sister Leah one summer. They roamed London, got to Scotland and saw Lochnaw castle in Stranraer, and got to Amsterdam. Saw LES MISERABLES in LONDON, a requirement from his sister which he was not excited about. How did they have money to go?? Financial Aid! She was living WITH US so had no living expenses, yet the school did not count OUR income because of her age. She got a lot of financial aid. Something in me says, “That’s wrong!” but we had no choice in the matter. She got the money regardless.

Lastly, this same daughter went on pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holy places in Israel, with her father as assistant and baby son 8 mos. old, in 2006. And JUST THIS YEAR, our oldest daughter did the same, taking her oldest son with her, the youngest son not able to go.

Today, all 4 of our kids are adults living in 4 different states, with us in a 5th. This makes for loneliness and missing them a lot. However, we raised them to be free to go and live where they wanted to. And they did. We talk on FaceBook, visit when we can. They are world citizens, all of them. And for this, we are proud.

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